Is it strange to have a female auto mechanic? Some would say yes, of course. And others still might um…
On one of my usual hustling rounds, I found a true female afro hustler in the town of Legendary Hospitality, Buea, Cameroon. She’s not in an office but in a garage. I was awestruck when I saw this lady loosening and tightening bolts, I mean, doing all the things I’ve always seen male auto mechanics do. Together with a classmate, they founded the Christopher Automobile garage in Mercedes Street, Bokoko-Bonduma village in Buea about 3 years ago.
I couldn’t resist the urge of wanting to know why she chose the profession and how it feels like to be a female auto mechanic among male colleagues. Ride on with me to discover more about her story.
Temfack Niugfack Nadia is the fifth child from a family of six children. She hails from Menoua (generally called Bamileke) in the West Region of Cameroon. She’s single and has no child. She received training in auto mechanics from Cameroon Opportunities Industrialization Centre (COIC) from 2004 – 2006. She later underwent a 1 year 6 months internship at Alfa Auto, a Canadian company in Douala, where she improved her skills in auto mechanics and also learnt automotive electrical systems.
She left Douala back for Buea to continue with her training. To ensure her training attained a rock solid form she spent 6 more years polishing up her skills at Tanjong David Downtown Garage Automobile situated around Fako Ship Bondouma.
She tells me she’s been working as a professional auto mechanic for 5 years now and that together with her male colleague and former classmate, Akum Christopher, they started their own garage which has been operational for four years.
Curious to know how she came about with the decision to become an auto mechanic, she said, “I was born to be an auto mechanic because first, my father was a truck driver and a truck mechanic. I can say I was born inside a mechanic field. I was the only person who was taking my father’s footstep and he supported me.”
Nadia goes on to talk about how it wasn’t just easy for some family members to accept that she would become a female auto mechanic. You know it’s hard for most parents to just accept some choices made by their children. So it was too for Nadia who faced a lot of resistance from her mother who tried to influence her decision.
“From the beginning, my mother could not believe I was doing this. You know this is the field of a man and seeing any woman doing it will obviously be strange. Later on, she realized I loved the profession and was doing it well, even more than some men. Customers would come looking for from home to come service their cars.
“On one journey from Dschang to Douala, my mother sister’s car had a breakdown because the lubricant of the brake system was leaking. I told my mom I was going to fix the problem but she tried to stop me. I insisted and handled the problem and the car was up and running again. We drove right to Loum and then my aunt told my mother that I’m good at what I do. That’s the moment my mother accepted I’ve chosen what I like best and since then she’s the one who has been seriously encouraging me to go on.”
We all have had tough times in life and when faced with such situations we are required to make decisions. Nadia shares an experience whereby her male classmates in the auto mechanic department doubted that she was in the right place. They needed some proof of her decision to be part of them and she came up strong and gave them what they wanted.
“I’ve been having a lot of experiences…It’s not easy to do something when you are the only woman among men. From the beginning, it wasn’t easy to deal with men because it appeared like a challenge to them. They didn’t quite welcome me from the start. Some even thought I was a hermaphrodite. Later on, they came to discover I was doing things just like them and so we started discussing together.
“Let me share an experience at COIC that I will never forget, one of the attempts my male classmates wanted to discourage me. I came one morning and place my overall and safety shoes on my bench and all of sudden our class prefect seized them. He asked me if I wanted to specialize in auto mechanics and I accepted. He then said since I’ve made the choice then I’m a man like them and asked me to go on and do things like them, that is change into my working gear in their presence.
“I wanted to dress like a woman, wearing my overall before taking off my skirt. He refused, requiring me to take off my skirt and top before putting on the overall. I had no choice than to do what they wanted to prove to them that I was here to learn auto mechanics. I summoned some courage and took off my clothes in their presence. They were all staring at me, I mean just my bra and underpants on. I felt my world closing in on me but I was determined to go on because it was my decision. That’s the moment they accepted I was part of them.”
She made mention of woman who encouraged her back in her school days, stating she was her mains source of encouragement when she started her professional journey back at COIC.
“I have a role model lady called Hanna. When I enrolled at Cameroon OIC she was two classes ahead of me. She now works at Razel in Douala. She gave me a lot of advice. She would tell me that if I was forced to choose this profession then I wouldn’t make it through, but if it’s all my decision to become an auto mechanic then I should get on. She would tell me to forget about the intimidation from they men and stay focus. I owe her so much gratitude and respect,” .
Nadia says her friends who didn’t see her getting through with her training to become a female auto mechanic now hold her in high esteem.
As a female auto mechanic, she’s had a tough time with some male clients who from the beginning were not convinced a woman could be a good mechanic.
“When some of the male clients come around to repair their cars they refuse having me to the job because they are not convinced I’m fit for the task. Some are afraid I wouldn’t tighten their bolts well. I wouldn’t just accept their refusal to have me do the work. Sometimes I insist that let me work on the car and when I’m done they should test, like men, if the bolts were properly secured. With this, I’ve succeeded to convince some men who now have confidence in me.
“When some women come with their cars they are surprised to see a woman working in a garage and so they get excited and insist that I be the one to work on their cars. These ladies encourage me a lot,” she talked about her clients.
Nadia is very ambitious. She mentioned that in the next 5 years she would want to own and run an institution that will train youths, especially girls. She also told me that if I happen to come around her garage in 5 years time I wouldn’t believe my eyes because the place would have been completely transformed. Since she co-founded the garage, she’s now a boss, you know like a boss lady. Presently, she’s mentoring for girls who look up to her as a role model.
“I used to have regrets why I chose this profession because of the unfriendly attitudes of some male classmates but that’s no longer the case. If I couldn’t quit back then with all the challenges I faced with classmates, then nothing can cause me to feel regrets. I’m now a boss on my own,” said Nadia who is very confident with the decision she took some years ago and is poised to go on no matter what.
“I know ladies like to do and keep their makeups to look beautiful. I wish to call on them to start thinking differently. They shouldn’t just think about specific professions. There are some of them who can perform better than some men in given fields. I’m inviting many girls and woman to join my profession because they will discover something new and different when they join the profession.”676226760
Contact Nadia via +237 676 226 760EN FR